Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me ★★


[NOTE: I started writing this epic "review" months ago, then got distracted by life. And now I don't really have time to finish it properly, so it's 95% preamble. Sorry about that.]

So here's my personal Twin Peaks chronology:

• Start watching show the night it premieres (despite otherwise paying zero attention to TV at the time), based on my love for Blue Velvet. Am instantly enraptured.

• Bail on show midway through season two—partly out of frustration with the various dopey storylines that emerge after Laura Palmer's killer is revealed, but mostly because I'm now working 100 hours per week in order to save money for NYU, which I'm due to start attending in the fall of '92.

• Fire Walk With Me opens commercially on 28 August 1992, which happens to be the day that I move to New York (from California). Between that craziness, my dad's presence in NYC for the first few days I'm there (he flew with me to get me settled in), and the overwhelmingly negative reviews FWWM receives, I never get around to seeing it. That I didn't finish the series makes the movie that much easier to skip.

• Over the course of the next two decades, I notice FWWM's reputation slowly improving. Several trusted friends insist that it's a masterpiece that was badly misunderstood upon release. It's also the only Lynch feature I haven't seen (though I currently omit The Elephant Man from my master list because I can't recall whether I saw it "properly"; might have been an edited TV broadcast with commercials). [DEC 2020: I have now rewatched The Elephant Man properly.]

• On 8 April 2010 (20th anniversary of the show's premiere), the New Beverly in L.A. shows FWWM in a double-feature with Mulholland Dr. Convenient for me, as I've recently moved back to California from New York in the wake of the financial crisis, which wiped out most of my freelance income. Good 35mm print, as I recall. Alas, I do not care for the film. But I don't feel very secure in my opinion, as it's been nearly 20 years since I visited this world and I never even saw the last dozen or so episodes. Had hoped that wouldn't be an issue, since events in the movie precede those depicted on the show, but I have trouble even remembering what the relationships among the characters are, and I'm clearly supposed to know. Not the ideal viewing context, really. Oh well.

• Some more years pass. The current Showtime series gets announced. In preparation, I spend the first few months of 2017 watching (or rewatching, in the case of S1 and the first half of S2) the original series, start to finish, at the rate of one episode per week. Having done that, I decide to give Fire Walk With Me a second chance, newly armed with the context that Lynch expected viewers to have at the time.

Alas, I still do not care for it.

[That's where I put this aside way the hell back in May. Super-condensed version of what was meant to follow: FWWM foregrounds the ickiest aspects of Lynch's psyche, wallowing in degradation for its own sake. I can tolerate his madonna/whore issues when they're tangential, as in Lost Highway, but here his fascination with the sordid details of Laura Palmer's double life overshadows everything else and makes me feel complicit in gratuitous leering (especially w/r/t how he reconceives Donna for the roadhouse scene). Watching this film, both times, made me think of Laura Elena Harring's account of Mulholland Dr.'s resuscitation: "One day David called us over to his house and said 'Mulholland Dr. is going to be an international feature film. And there's gonna be nudity!' So we're all shaking his hand, but we're like, 'There's going to be what?'" I'll defend the lesbian sex scene in that film, at least to some extent, but Lynch's adolescent excitement at the prospect of adding skin to his abandoned pilot has stuck with me over the years...maybe in part because I can so easily hear "And there's gonna be nudity!" in his voice, which cracks me up every time. But there's nothing funny about FWWM. It feels painfully arrested, the work of a boy who still finds women terrifying on some primal level. You can find that terror throughout Lynch's oeuvre, but it's never been more highly concentrated than it is here. For those who equate raw, unfiltered self-expression with greatness, that's surely a good thing. I, however, do not. Lynch can get too ugly for me. This is Exhibit A.]

{Yes, that's the super-condensed version. This was originally gonna be (even more) obscenely long, which is why it wound up stalled. Also, before someone inevitably asks: Yes, I mostly liked S3, though I must say I'm kinda glad that Amanda Seyfried's Becky wound up all but forgotten by the end.}